Caring for the forbidden tree

The Bible is quite vague regarding the conversations between God and the first people, but we know a few things, from which we can infer others. For one, God asked Adam and Eve to be caretakers of His creation. We read from Genesis 2:15 that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The other known directive is that God explicitly forbade Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. From Genesis 2:16,17 the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

What we can infer from these two commands is that God intended for Adam and Eve to care for the forbidden tree, but not to partake from its fruit. This is much different from what Eve assumed God said. In Genesis 3:2,3 Eve tells the serpent that they may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” Her and Adam seemed to almost make up their own rules that would help keep them away from the tree, even though they were meant to care for it. If they had cared for it, the snake would not have been attracted to that tree, which seemed peculiar from all others in the garden due to its unkempt appearance. Even if the snake had tried to still use the tree, Eve would not have been afraid of it to the same degree, and she would have been able to express God’s will for them in relation to the tree correctly.

This is the result of not knowing the will of the Lord, but making up our own rules that sound good in theory, but are quite terrible in practice. Another perfect example of this is the rules put into place by the Jewish religious leaders following the exile in Babylon. Their intentions were good, but by the time Jesus came to live among them, the Jews were very far from keeping the laws of God, even though they thought they were doing just that. God said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13).

Where am I going with this? For most Christians who have studied these passages, these are pretty obvious truths and conclusions, right? However, the implications seem to fly right over our collective heads. Do we have forbidden fruits before our eyes? Are we still meant to be stewards of the forbidden trees of the world? Let’s take a look at a highly enticing fruit in our world today, drugs. Some people go so far as to condone the use of drugs by citing the word of God. There are people out there who take Genesis 1:29 and make it seem as if marijuana, which is a seed-bearing plant, is ok to consume. I was one of those people, a drug user who found God, but did not want to give up smoking weed. I’m extremely thankful that God gave me the power to recognize my sin and to repent of it.

In light of this, how do we as a church treat drug users in general? Do we treat them as God wants us to, by being stewards of His creation, or do we treat them with contempt and fear as Adam and Eve treated the tree of knowledge? I believe that in most cases, and certainly in my own personal experience, it’s the latter. What about other forbidden fruit? Prostitutes, liars, thieves, murderers, Sabbath breakers, etc. Do we treat these people with love and care, or do we try to not associate with them, if it can be helped?

I’m guilty of this more than most. I have this false sense that if I just ignore “those people”, they won’t bother me. This is not what God wants me to do. Jesus came to this world to save the sinners and he was known to hang out with some hard people. However, “those people” eventually followed Him and their lives became blessed and they became a blessing to others. The great commission to spread the gospel means we have to spread the gospel to all people, not just the ones we consider worthy in our own judgement. We are meant to care for the forbidden tree while not partaking of its fruit. This is the most important task of God’s church. This is what’s going to cause all people to hear the word of God and be saved. We must practice the love and tolerance that we preach.

Brothers, sisters, friends, in light of the second quarter’s message in our Sabbath school, we must forego sanctimony and reach out to the ones who nobody wants. This is how we win souls for Jesus, starting right in our backyard. Set condemnation aside, let God be the judge, and just be a loving friend to those who need it most. Embracing and welcoming drug addicts and prostitutes does not mean we condone their behavior, but it does mean we love the sinner while hating the sin. This is God’s will for us, until Jesus returns.

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